News In Brief 2/11/05

Classical Radio in D.C. Under Possible Threat

Wednesday’s Washington Post included a report that WETA-FM, the Arlington-based NPR affiliate that has carried classical programming since 1970, looks likely to switch to an all-news format. Not that anyone really expects to read classical radio station success stories these days, but still the industry quickly circulated the news via email with notes of dismay.

Post Staff Writer Paul Farhi reports that “the station’s management intends to present a proposal to overhaul daily programming to the board of directors next week” and that, if approved, classical programming “would be largely replaced by month’s end.” Farhi’s sources suggest that the move “was signaled in early January, when the station hired a new program director, Maxie C. Jackson III,” known for his skill developing news and talk programming.

The classical community is not standing idling by while it waits for the axe to fall. Uli Bader, director of Artistic Planning at the National Symphony Orchestra, has started collecting signatures on an email petition addressed to the Board of Directors of WETA that reads in part: “I consider the program change of WETA FM to news-only and the cancellation of classical music on your station a tragedy and a catastrophe for music and the arts. We have truly enough news channels and your step is going into the wrong direction. I know about financial restrictions but there must be more creative ways to solve this problem.”

In a letter to the editor on the classical music news site MusicalAmerica.com, Jim Allison, program director at D.C.’s conservatively programmed Classical 103.5 WGMS, countered that “while it indeed seems likely that WETA-FM will follow the trend of public stations around the country and drop classical programming in favor of news, Washington will continue to be well served by Classical 103.5 WGMS.”

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James Jordan Named ACF Philly Chapter Director

James Jordan is set to take the reins of The American Composers Forum’s Philadelphia Chapter. Jordan, tapped to be the new chapter director, will primarily focus on developing programs and funding to support new music initiatives in the area. According to the ACF, an immediate priority is managing a collaborative commissioning project between the Philadelphia Orchestra and ACF Philadelphia commemorating the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin.

Originally from Philadelphia, Jordan is a graduate of Temple University where he majored in double bass performance and composition. He most recently served as The Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia’s operations manager. Jordan has also maintained an active performance career and is a founding member of Conjunto 23.

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Ojai Music Festival Granted $25,000 to support New Work/Emerging Composers

The annual four-day Ojai Music Festival has received a grant of $25,000 from The James Irvine Foundation in “acknowledgment of the Festival’s ability to foster rising composers and to give established artists an opportunity to perform new repertoire,” said Jeffrey P. Haydon, executive director of the festival. The grant, which is provided over a two-year period, will be applied towards fees for guest artists, including Oliver Knussen, the festival’s 2005 music director.

Since its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has presented John Adams, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Tilson Thomas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Lukas Foss, Dawn Upshaw, André Previn, Kent Nagano, and many others. The 59th Ojai Music Festival will run June 9-12, 2005.

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Philharmonic Signs Composers for City’s Centennial

Las Vegas Philharmonic Music Director Harold Weller has commissioned three original music compositions about Las Vegas in honor of the city’s 100th birthday. Philharmonic Associate Conductor Richard McGee, Dan Welcher of the University of Texas, and Pulitzer Prize winner George Walker will each write a work for the six-year-old ensemble. The commissions, funded by a grant from the city’s Centennial Committee, will be premiered during the Philharmonic’s 2005-06 season.